The day the Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s positive Covid-19 test broke last March and NBA games were shut down due to the then-emerging pandemic, it sent shockwaves throughout the whole sports business community.
With so much uncertainty around us I gathered our troops and told each and every member of our team that we will come out better than we were prior to the pandemic. I never knew it would be this long, that I would be currently be Covid-19 positive myself, and that we all would still be facing it. But my words held true.
We quickly pivoted to every sport and esport in which you can play daily fantasy sports or wager on. It first started with Mexican soccer which continued for a couple of weeks, then simulation Nascar, and then the big winner: esports. Esports and specifically League of Legends really blossomed and carried us for quite some time prior to UFC, Nascar, and then the PGA Tour coming back.
The uncertainty forced many other daily fantasy sports and sports betting content providers to close up shop. But we emerged in a better position today than where we were when the news of the pandemic first broke.
For some time there were days without any sports to wager on or lineups to build for daily fantasy. So we made the best use of our time at Win Daily and quickly pivoted to rebuilding our tools and our evergreen content on the site.
From a business perspective I actually increased my staff, increased our payroll budget, and increased our advertising budget, all while pausing all of our paid membership revenue. It was a tough decision, but ultimately became an easy one when I took in the current state of our country.
I did not build Win Daily for a short-term gain and I am in this to be around 10 years from now and our community and our team come first. So while our competition shut down or, even worse, charged for memberships while games were very limited, we worked to keep our community happy, which I believe to be paramount in the long term.
The pandemic has also changed how we look at sports themselves. Analysis of the game has changed since the pandemic and researching how it effects the psychology of the players and the atmosphere now has to be taken into account. This is carrying weight, for example, currently in the National Football League where you can clearly see an edge with the elite quarterbacks of the world dominating every Sunday with no crowd presence to interrupt play calling at the line.
Our venture was not the first to market so we were consistently playing from behind when I started the venture. But the pandemic provided us with a chance to level up while our competition was on pause.
Since last March, I have kept the company lean and agile we have made great strides over the past year. Some routines have changed like hosting the Win Daily SiriusXM radio show out of my house while having a 2-year-old running around while I am recording from my basement studio. I never thought I would say this but I actually miss the traffic-filled commute into New York City and the struggle to find parking prior to recording.
But with all the distractions in life gone and without much to do in my personal life like hanging out with friends or playing real sports, my focus has been entirely on building our team, our brand, and our community.
There are two sides to this story. But overall, the pandemic has provided a major uptick to the regulation and legalization of the daily fantasy sports and sports betting community. On one side the shutdown initially crushed us all, but it was short lived and we have now recovered to our new way of consuming sports.
With so much revenue lost by the leagues, teams, players, workers, organizations, ancillary businesses and states themselves I think all the parties are starting to recognize and fully understand the possible revenue streams that gaming legalization will bring to the market, not just solely from a revenue perspective but also with regard to fan engagement with in-person attendance not currently available in most states.
We have seen early-adopter gaming states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania rake in record-breaking revenue amounts crushing prior American industry records held by Nevada, which is truly astonishing.
To hear recently that the once-opposed governor of New York turned a corner on sports betting makes me believe that in the next 2-4 years we will see most states buying into sports betting.
The innovation in this market will be staggering and I’m truly excited to see what will hit this market soon. Elements such as live betting, peer-to-peer wagering, and tournament-style gambling contests will be popping up sooner rather than later.
New educational mobile apps on how to play and compete against the sportsbooks will also be soon populating everyone’s phones. And ultimately, the way sports are watched will never be the same. I myself am working on some new projects which I believe will be game changers, and I’m sure I am not alone. It’s a great time to be alive if you have a passion for sports betting and a positive outlook for what the future will bring to this market.
Jason Mezrahi is the founder of daily fantasy sports and betting information company Win Daily Inc.